Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ask Dr. Green T: Living Life the Organic Way

Dear Dr. Green T,
How can we know if something is "organic" or not?

-Jennie Kim, Green News Editorial Board

So you want to eat green, huh? Finally coming to terms with the potential harm that arises from purchasing foods with pesticides and growth hormones? I've learned from my Environmental Science class in high school that there are many risks that come from purchasing "non-organic" items. An example is milk which contains RBST growth hormones, a drug injected into cows to increase their milk output. Unfortunately, these growth hormones affect the growth rate of consumers as young children end up growing at a faster and unatural rate. Not a good thing at all...

Now what? Well, Organic products are plainly noted as coming from a more natural state, and thus no added chemicals in their process. Simple, right? Well, it may not be for those who are in the market shopping for an organic grocery item or dish at a restaurant.

Fortunately, organic dishes at restaurants can be "Whole restaurant certified" where every dish produced is organic or they can have a couple of items that are organic like lasagna with organic beef. You also have every right to ask to see how they can prove that their beef is organic by viewing if they've paid an organic farm. The food is going in YOUR mouth and into YOUR body, so stand up for your health.

As far as grocery shopping goes, you may distinguish an organic product from that not of by locating a specific sticker, mainly the "Certified Organic" sticker. This specific logo means that:

"The product has been grown according to strict standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. In the U.S. these third party agents are accredited under the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP). Certification includes annual inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set. For a product to receive the USDA Organic seal, a minimum of 95% of ingredients are certified organic. The remaining ingredients must appear on the National List of Approved Materials" (Seo).

You may learn more about why organic food is better by Click Here!!

Dr. Green T

Works Cited:
Seo, Danny. "Eco Friendly Goodness." wholearth beaty+beath. 2009. 4 Nov 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ask Dr. Green T: Workin' at the Jar Wash!

The water company asks us not to rinse our food containers(eg. milk containers etc.) before we recycle them, to conserve water; but waste management asks us to rinse out food containers, so that we don't contaminate the rest of the recycling. Which option is more environmentally friendly?
-Adam OCamb, Green News Editorial Board

The concept of whether or not one should waste the water required to clean a recyclable item is something that definitely needs to be taken into consideration. I usually wash items like yogurt or peanut butter containers before recycling them because I find such food waste will mold and be difficult for the company to clean later on. However, other items like milk containers, soup cans, and so on are a different story as they're in liquid form and don't make as much a mess after you've finished with them. Now, let's get another opinion on this issue!

Nina Shen Rastogi from Slate Magazine answers this question in her own article by explaining that "recycling facilities are well equipped to handle dirty cans and bottles, so some caked-on tomato sauce and the occasional stray chickpea won't significantly hinder the process. Residue left on plastic or glass containers generally gets flushed out with water at some point in the process; most of the gunk left behind on steel and aluminum cans is burned away when those containers get melted down. So there's no need to waste water by running the faucet over your recyclables—even if you were to get them squeaky clean, they'd probably end up getting washed again, anyhow" (Rastogi).

Also, if you're interested in learning about the recycling process for plastic food containers, then Click Here. This statement letter dates back to 1996, but not much has changed since then.

With all this information in mind, there seems to be a consensus that washing one's recyclable food containers is rather pointless as these items will be cleaned again once they hit the factory. As a common courtesy to those workers, it would be nice to rinse out the occasional mayo jar or yogurt cup, but honestly, it's going to get washed again no matter how spotless it is when you recycle it. :P

Dr. Green T

Works Cited:
Rastogi, Nina Shen. "Clean Jar, Clean Conscience?." Slate. 03 Feb 2009. Newsweek Interactive Co, Web. 16 Oct 2009. .

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ask Dr. Green T: Light Up My World!

How can we address the problems of light pollution?
-Karen Lo, Green News Editorial Board

This question is definitely different than previous ones as it has more to do with a community as a whole doing their part to help an environmental situation rather than individual homes helping in their own way. Light pollution, basically, is all of the misdirected light we use that accumulates large enough to block our vision of the stars in our night sky. This light pollution becomes quite a problem for not only people who don't have the luxury of looking to the stars at night, but it also affects certain wildlife animals who can't adjust to the cities that don't become dark enough and so affects their living habits.

However, this doesn't have to be the way! There are simple steps you may take in order to prevent this problem from growing and becoming worse. I find that turning off lights that are not in direct use is the most effective and least difficult method to avoid polluting our skies. However, this is nothing compared to the many other possibilities in which you can help out!!

1) Use only full cutoff light fixtures. Organizations like "Starry Night Skies" display a large array of light fixtures with the purpose of shining outside lights at the ground as opposed to up into the sky. My family has motion-detector versions of these lights and they are just as good as if using any other type of light fixtures. Only difference is these are better for the environment!! Not to mention, "[installing motion sensors] reduce your use of electricity for lighting upwards of 90%, easily paying for the cost of the sensor and its installation" ("10 Easy Steps...").

2) If you're not ready to depart from your original light fixture, yet still want to make a difference, simply purchase a light shade to place over it. This way you have the best of both worlds!! :]

3) Educate your neighbors. Remember, not everything has to be done alone! To be united on something as important as helping our environment is a truly honorable thing to be apart of. I'm sure if you explained the cause and demonstrate your passion well enough, you will most surely be able to convince others to get involved too. It's all on us now to fix what we've broken on this Earth. Let's do it together!

It's quite interesting how staring down at a city filled with light pollution can bring conflicting emotions to a person's mind. Whenever I look down upon such a sight, I tend to immediately think about how beautiful and glorious all the lights look from the homes and cars. On the other hand, I notice this reaction and quickly realize how these lights all grouped together look like fire destroying the beauty of our environment, including the stars in the night sky! This is why it's understandable why some people aren't bothered by light pollution, especially those who've lived in the city most of their lives.

I strongly urge anyone who hasn't gone camping before or visited the countryside to do so because once you look out onto the millions of stars, planets, and solar systems, you truly realize how fragile and small our Earth is. With this in mind, be sure to go out there and take action. Fight for our planet's health! It's the only one we've got.

Dr. Green T

Works Cited:
Anthony. "10 Easy Steps to Reduce Light Pollution." Starry Night Lights. 09 Oct 2006. Web. 8 Oct 2009.

Anthony. "Why Does The Sky Glow At Night?." Starry Night Lights. 21 Jul 2006. Web. 8 Oct 2000.

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